HAVANA – The current sugar harvest is Cuba’s worst since 1905, Communist Party daily Granma said on Wednesday, two days after President Raul Castro fired the minister responsible for the industry.
The sugar ministry has failed to implement the changes needed to address chronic problems, the newspaper said.
Sugar Minister Luis Manuel Avila Gonzalez was dismissed this week after roughly 16 months in the job. The official account said he asked to be relieved after acknowledging “deficiencies” in his job performance.
Avila was replaced by Deputy Minister Orlando Celso Garcia Ramirez.
Granma said the sugar ministry “suffered a lack of objectivity” in its planning and projections for the current season and that officials’ mistakes could no longer be “masked” by blaming the weather or other external variables.
Last year’s harvest was more than 850,000 tons short of the official forecast, the daily said, following a downward trend that set in after the sector enjoyed an “encouraging upturn” in 2005-2008.
“It is not by chance that the harvest is closely followed, that its unfavorable results are noted and painful. Putting it back where it should be is indispensable,” Granma said, calling sugar part of Cuba’s heritage.
The Cuban sugar industry underwent a major overhaul between 2002 and 2004, when the number of refineries was slashed from 156 to 61, more than 100,000 jobs were eliminated and the amount of land planted with sugarcane shrank from 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) to around 750,000 hectares (1.85 million acres).
Cuba produced 1.4 million tons of sugar in the 2008-2009 season, earning more than $600 million from exports of the sweetener. EFE